Scoliosis Walking

As those with scoliosis may well know, a curvature of the spine doesn't just affect your back - it can also affect other parts of your body. This includes the hips and legs, which can sometimes lead to a change in the way you walk.

Today we will look at how scoliosis affects walking, the causes behind this, and what can be done to rectify it.

How does scoliosis affect walking?

A sideways curvature of the spine can sometimes cause the hips to misalign. This misalignment can cause one leg to appear shorter than the other, affecting the patient's gait. They also may be restricted while they are walking, as scoliosis sometimes causes stiffness and impairs overall mobility.

In severe cases of scoliosis, the knock-on effects of the spinal curvature can disrupt the coordination between the leg muscles. This also stiffens the muscles and makes it difficult to walk with ease. This is usually due to the degeneration of the spine applying excessive pressure on the nerves and spinal cord.

Treating scoliosis-related walking problems

There are a variety of ways to treat scoliosis and resolve any associated walking problems. The best method of treatment usually depends on the severity of the curvature - here's a look at some of the most popular scoliosis treatment methods:

  • Bracing - Bracing is often the first port of call when treating a case of scoliosis, especially if the patient is young and their body is still growing. A rigid brace is used to halt the progression of the curvature while the patient finishes growing. Further treatment may be necessary later on.

  • Specialised physiotherapy - Physical therapy is a popular non-surgical method for treating scoliosis. It combines a mixture of exercises, orthotics, stretches, massages, and - in some cases, including that of our own ScolioGold treatment programme - hydrotherapy. A comprehensive physical therapy programme can help to reduce the curvature of the patient's spine and improve their overall quality of life.

  • Surgery - Surgery is usually the last option given to the patient and is reserved for extreme cases. The operation may involve spinal fusion or magnetic growth rods, depending on the age of the patient (and where in the world they live).

Each of these treatments can help towards fixing a scoliosis patient's walking problems; it is up to you to decide which method is right for you.

Here at Scoliosis SOS, we specialise in the non-surgical approach to scoliosis treatment. Our clinic, based in London, provides intensive physiotherapy courses which aim to improve the curvature of your spine. We have treated patients from all over the world for over a decade, and we are very proud of the results we achieve.

To see the results of our ScolioGold treatment courses, browse our 'Before & After' photo gallery here.

If you're interested in attending a ScolioGold course, please contact us today to book an initial consultation.

Medical professionals use a mind-boggling array of different terms to refer to scoliosis and other curvatures of the spine. On this blog, we frequently aim to put some of this arcane diagnostic jargon into layman's terms – see our posts on levoconvex scoliosis and thoracic hyperkyphosis, for example.

The tricky medical term that we'd like to look at today is thoracogenic scoliosis. At first glance, this phrase may look like it means the same thing as thoracic scoliosis – that is, a sideways curve in the 'thoracic' (upper/middle) region of your backbone.

But don't be tripped up! Thoracogenic scoliosis is a far more specific term than thoracic scoliosis, and they should not be used interchangeably.

So what is thoracogenic scoliosis?

According to the Scoliosis Research Society's Revised Glossary of Terms, thoracogenic scoliosis is a "spinal curvature attributable to disease or operative trauma in or on the thoracic cage".

In simpler terms, thoracogenic scoliosis is what we call a spinal curve that was caused by either surgery or a disease in the thoracic region (that is, the part of the body that's highlighted in the image below).

Thoracic Spine

This raises another question...

What can cause thoracogenic scoliosis?

There are several diseases and operations that can trigger the development of scoliosis. Here are just a couple of examples:

  • Thoracotomy (surgical operation). A thoracotomy involves opening up the patient's chest, usually to access vital organs such as the heart or lungs. Scoliosis very rarely results from a thoracotomy, but it can happen, as in this case where the patient developed scoliosis post-surgery as the result of her rib fusion.

  • Lymphoma (disease). Cancers such as lymphoma may, if they grow large enough, disrupt the spine and push it into a curved / skewed position.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we treat all types of scoliosis in patients of all ages. Click here to learn about our treatment methods, or if you'd like to arrange an initial consultation, please contact us today.

Scoliosis Corset

We've discussed the use of braces to treat scoliosis quite a few times on this blog, but are you aware of just how many different types of scoliosis brace there are? From the Boston brace to the Gensignen brace, there are many options available to scoliosis patients and the medical professionals responsible for treating them.

Today, we're going to look at a type of soft scoliosis brace called a corset brace.

What is a corset brace?

If you've seen the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, you know what a corset is: a tight-fitting undergarment that wraps around the torso, shaping the wearer's figure. Corsets were common from the mid-16th century onwards, although they have long had a reputation for being very uncomfortable and they're not worn very often nowadays.

A medical corset (of the kind that might be used to treat scoliosis) has much in common with a regular corset: it's made of fabric (usually cotton or nylon) and tightened with laces. Some are reinforced with metal bars.

Just as a corset worn for fashion purposes shapes the figure in a certain way, a scoliosis corset shapes the body in order to help correct and/or alleviate the spinal curvature and its symptoms.

How do corsets help with scoliosis?

The scoliosis brace has two functions:

  • Reduce the weight / stress being placed on certain areas of the spine
  • Restrict movement, preventing postures that might harm the spine further

Whereas a rigid scoliosis brace (e.g. a Boston or Milwaukee brace) aims to prevent the wearer's spinal curve from progressing as they grow, a soft corset brace focuses more on alleviating pressure and creating conditions that are conducive to faster healing. For instance, they are sometimes used to help patients recovery from scoliosis surgery.

Alternatives to bracing

While bracing can be useful for limiting the effects of scoliosis, it is generally not the most effective treatment method available - not on its own, at least.

Here at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic, we frequently treat scoliosis patients who wear (or have previously worn) braces to help with their condition. However, our ScolioGold treatment programme has also proven to be an effective alternative to bracing in that it can:

  • Reverse the progression of spinal curvature (see our results page)
  • Reduce pain and stiffness
  • Improve mobility and muscle balance
  • Boost overall quality of life

If you're interested in getting treated at the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in London, please take a look at our upcoming course dates or get in touch to book an initial consultation.

Further reading:

Nobody has a perfectly straight backbone. It is normal to have slight sagittal spinal curvature that forms a sort of gentle 'S' shape, as shown here:

Normal curvature of the spine

A 'normal' spine as viewed from the side, front and back

In this blog post, we will look at what constitutes a 'normal' curvature of the spine and what is classed as an abnormal / excessive curvature. 

Normal Curvature of the Spine

A normal curvature of the spine appears in the neck and lower back areas of the spine. When viewed from the side, these soft curves bend forward at the neck (cervical) section and outwards in the lower half (lumbar) of the spine. These normal curvatures of the spine help to distribute bodily stress more evenly during rest and movement.

These curves balance each other out, so your head should be aligned with your hips when standing up straight. This position works to minimise the effect of gravity and allows you to have good posture when moving around.

A healthy spine with a normal curvature should still be centred on the pelvis, and more or less straight when viewed from behind. While most people have a slight sideways curve, the spine should not curve more than 10 degrees to the left or right. 

Abnormal Curvatures of the Spine

An abnormal curvature of the spine can take a number of different forms, including:

  • Scoliosis - Scoliosis is an excessive curvature of the spine to the left or right (or both). Common symptoms of scoliosis include uneven shoulder blades, hips and rib humps.

  • Hyperlordosis - Hyperlordosis is an excessive forward curvature of the lower spine, making it appear that the patient's stomach and rear are sticking out.

  • Hyperkyphosis - Hyperkyphosis is an excessive forward curvature of the upper spine, often resulting in a 'hunchback' appearance.

If you think you may be experiencing any of these disorders, it is important to go and see a GP before the curvature progresses any further. Unfortunately, in most cases, the condition will not improve by itself and will require treatment.

Flat Back Syndrome

It is also possible to have an abnormally small sagittal curvature of the spine. Flat back syndrome refers to a straightening of the spinal cord, usually in the thoracic (upper) part of the spine, resulting in an overall imbalance.

The surgical methods used to treat scoliosis from the 1960s to the 1980s are often cited as the cause of this problem, but modern techniques mean that flat back syndrome is far less common nowadays. Other causes of flat back syndrome include degenerative disc disease, vertebral compression fractures, ankylosing spondylitis and post-laminectomy syndrome.

If you think you may have a spinal abnormality, the Scoliosis SOS Clinic is dedicated to treating these conditions through exercise-based physical therapy. Click here to find out more about our treatment method, or contact us now to arrange an initial consultation.

When is Scoliosis Diagnosed

Scoliosis can occur at any stage of life, and the patient's symptoms at time of diagnosis can vary hugely from one case to the next: one person might be entirely unaware of their spinal curvature until a doctor spots it on an X-ray, while the next person might be suffering from extreme pain and greatly reduced mobility.

Today, we'd like to answer two different (but related) questions: what will a doctor look for when diagnosing whether a patient has scoliosis, and at what age is scoliosis usually diagnosed?

What do doctors look for when diagnosing scoliosis?

The first step to finding out whether or not you have scoliosis is visiting your GP, who will conduct an examination to see if you have an abnormally curved spine. Your GP will look for a number of different symptoms that may indicate the presence of scoliosis, including:

  • Uneven shoulder blades
  • Uneven hips
  • Leaning to one side
  • Back pain
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Breathing problems

If your GP suspects that you may be suffering from scoliosis, you will be referred to the hospital for an X-ray scan. The images obtained during this scan will then be analysed by the hospital doctor, and this is when you will receive your scoliosis diagnosis if your spine is abnormally curved.

(Remember, every spine is slightly curved - you will only be diagnosed with scoliosis if the angle of your spinal curve exceeds 10 degrees.)

After you have been diagnosed with scoliosis, the next step is to attend a specialist consultation to discuss the best treatment route for your spinal condition.

At what age is scoliosis usually diagnosed?

Scoliosis affects people of all ages, and some people go many years before receiving a diagnosis. That said, idiopathic scoliosis - the most common form of scoliosis - is usually diagnosed when the patient is between 10 and 15 years old. The cause of idiopathic scoliosis is unknown, yet it accounts for around 80% of all cases.

In some cases, scoliosis can also be diagnosed earlier in the patient's life - for example, children who suffer from cerebral palsy may develop scoliosis as a result of this condition.

Scoliosis also affects adults and the elderly. Some cases of idiopathic scoliosis are not diagnosed until adulthood, but there is also degenerative scoliosis, which occurs later in life due to the ageing process.

If you are looking for an effective non-surgical scoliosis treatment option, please contact Scoliosis SOS today to arrange a consultation.